So this is what our society has come to. Within a 10-day period, sportscaster Craig James was fired by Fox Sports for comments he had made against homosexuality during a political campaign last year while Keith Olbermann was lauded for his 9-minute anti-Russia, pro-homosexuality rant on ESPN. The double standards are as glaring as they are shocking.
As reported on the Advocate.com, a leading gay website, “Keith Olbermann opened his ESPN show last night with a scathing rant against Russia’s antigay laws and the International Olympic Committee’s response to calls for a boycott of the Winter Games in Sochi.
“Olbermann’s nine-minute tirade brilliantly pointed out the ridiculousness of recent comments by President Vladimir Putin — who has tried to claim Russia’s so-called gay propaganda law is not homophobic.”
But that’s just the beginning: “Olbermann also highlighted the frightening similarities of the political climate surrounding the upcoming Winter Games regarding LGBT people and attitudes against other groups of people during the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin,” pointing to America’s pulling Jewish athlete Marty Glickman from the team.
What was the result? According to Olbermann, “within three years Hitler was invading Czechoslovakia while America had an official policy of neutrality and within five years Hitler was in mid genocide.”
Has Olbermann been disciplined for this? Publicly corrected? Censured in any way? (And remember this was on a national, ESPN show.) Not a chance.
Yet in April of this year, the perfectly acceptable comments from Chris Broussard on ESPN, responding to a direct question about Jason Collins, who had just come out as gay, drew a firestorm of criticism and controversy. Why the glaring double standard?
A Christian like Chris Broussard gets in very hot water for saying that he questions how Jason Collins can practice homosexuality and be a Christian at the same time (a position that is about 2,000 year old) – and this in a brief interchange where he was asked for his views directly – yet Keith Olbermann can go on a 9-minute, overstated rant and there’s hardly a word uttered about it (other than praise on gay websites).
Rhetoric like Olbermann’s was completely over the top, regardless of how one views Russia’s ban on the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” along with other laws against “gay propaganda.” (For the record, while I absolutely deplore and renounce all acts of violence against those who identify as LGBT, it is fair to ask what is so bad about a ban against the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.”)
And can Russia’s recent laws really be compared to Hitler’s genocidal acts against 6 million Jews (among others)? Where is the outcry over Olbermann’s remarks?
As for Craig James, he was a college football standout and an NFL pro-bowler, a man praised by Fox Sports Southwest Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou as a “talented broadcaster who I’ve admired throughout his career. His knowledge of college football and the experience he brings as an analyst will be a tremendous asset to our coverage.” Anastassiou added that, “His knowledge of college football and the experience he brings as an analyst will be a tremendous asset to our coverage.”
But immediately after being hired by this regional Fox outlet, he was fired because of comments he made during his political campaign last year. Yes, “after one day on the job—Fox gave James the boot for his conservative views on marriage. And here’s the kicker: He made the comments not at the sports desk but during last year’s Senate campaign!”
What exactly did he say? In answer to a direct question during the campaign, he expressed his opposition to same-sex “marriage,” explaining that he didn’t believe anyone was born gay (and therefore living a gay lifestyle was a choice) and stating that, “They are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.”
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According to a Fox spokesman, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”
Come again? In the workplace, he would not be allowed to say he opposed gay marriage? He would not be allowed to say he didn’t believe people were born gay? He would not be allowed to say that practicing homosexuals would have to answer to the Lord for their actions (as would a whole lot of heterosexuals as well, based on James’s beliefs)?
Worse still, James had not made those comments in the workplace but rather during a political campaign. Yet he loses his job because of this?
So, in today’s upside down world, if you have ever publicly expressed your disapproval of homosexual practice and your disagreement with the redefinition of marriage, you are not welcome as a sports broadcaster (yes, sports broadcaster, not political commentator), but if you compare Putin’s laws against “gay propaganda” to Hitler’s genocide of the Jews, you get a national platform on ESPN.
The scariest thing of all is that Olbermann’s defenders will be seen as enlightened and tolerant while James’s defenders will be seen as bigoted and intolerant. The double standard continues.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, including Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message, and he hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.